Esso Cup host city still in doubt; Prince Albert not set in stone as tournament location

The Prince Albert Northern Bears and its staff are awaiting a statement from Hockey Canada, in regards to the host city for this year's Esso Cup. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

After over three years of planning and promising the city of Prince Albert that the Esso Cup tournament would be held at the Art Hauser Centre, that commitment is up in the air again.

While the last two attempts at the tournament were postponed due to the pandemic, members of the Esso Cup committee were in Prince Albert earlier this season, with a plan in place to hold the tournament in Prince Albert this spring.

After a first round exit from the playoffs, the Prince Albert Northern Bears and its staff are unsure of whether the tournament will actually be played in the city this year. Hockey Canada released a brief statement earlier this week, which read:

“Currently, Hockey Canada is reviewing with the members all possible options to host National Championships in the spring of 2022. At this point we do not have any detailed updates but will make a hosting decision with the best interest of the athletes at the forefront. We hope to have more information available in the coming weeks.”

Northern Bears president Laura Quesnel said there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment.

“It’s very frustrating for the team,” she said. “Right now we don’t have a confirmed date or place for the Esso Cup. From the team perspective, it’s frustrating.”

To Quesnel’s point, frustration would be the word that many of the members involved with the team would use. After spending the last three seasons putting in volunteer work and making the venue ready for teams from across the country, to be unsure for a third straight year would be frustrating.

“It’s been over three years because we’ve been in the process of bidding and getting ready to host,” Quesnel said. “Ultimately, it’s Hockey Canada’s decision, and at this point, I think they’re making decisions based on the best interest of the athletes.

“We have no confirmations whatsoever yet. We’re hoping something comes out soon. When you get that initial announcement that the tournament has been cancelled, it’s devastating. We’re not saying that it’s not going to happen this year, but right now we just don’t know.”

It’s not just the players and team members that are checking closely for any announcements. The parents of the players, many of which don’t live in Prince Albert, have also been awaiting any news. Quesnel says it hasn’t been easy for anyone involved with the team.

“We have parents asking us, and there are rumors out there. Until we get an official announcement, at this point we can’t say what’s happening because we don’t know.”